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Obstetric Violence: A Form of Gender-Based Violence

aUniversity of Lisbon, Portugal
bNova School of Law, Portugal

The Emerald International Handbook of Feminist Perspectives on Women’s Acts of Violence

ISBN: 978-1-80382-256-3, eISBN: 978-1-80382-255-6

Publication date: 2 August 2023


Obstetric violence is the mistreatment of women in the setting of obstetric care, which includes preconception, medically assisted reproduction, pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. Obstetric violence follows and perpetuates the devaluation and subjugation of women in patriarchal societies, where socio-cultural conceptions contribute to a view of the female body as faulty and deviating from the male prototype. These shape the perception that female reproductive processes require technological corrections. The medicalisation of reproductive processes and the mechanisation of a normal life event, with the threat of death and other life-changing consequences, disempower women and objectify the body and its functions.

The entrance of women into the workforce and the specialised fields, feminising care professions, failed to shift this paradigm. Female health workers are trained in the procedures instituted by dominant patriarchal structures, expressing values encoded in the professional culture and the institutions where they work. As women conform to the models they are exposed to during their training, perpetuating corporate hierarchies and practices, they act as agents and perpetrators of obstetric violence. Thus, obstetric violence also constitutes a specific type of violence against women at the hands of other women.



Barata, C., Simões, V. and Soromenho, F. (2023), "Obstetric Violence: A Form of Gender-Based Violence", Banwel, S., Black, L., Cecil, D.K., Djamba, Y.K., Kimuna, S.R., Milne, E., Seal, L. and Tenkorang, E.Y. (Ed.) The Emerald International Handbook of Feminist Perspectives on Women’s Acts of Violence, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 203-217.



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Copyright © 2023 Catarina Barata, Vânia Simões and Francisca Soromenho. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited